Friday, July 3, 2015

WB's (aka Robert Downey Jr's) Pinocchio Gets Paul Thomas Anderson as Writer (& Possibly as Director) & Production Ramps Up

It would appear that the WB's live action Pinocchio (in development with Robert Downey Jr for some time now) has been put on the fast track.

First of all, the movie now has a new script writer that everyone is very pumped about: Oscar nominated writer and director Paul Thomas Anderson. You may know his work from such films as There Will Be Blood and Boogie Nights.

The news as first released by The Hollywood Reporter on July 1st:
Cover of Pinocchio from 1911
Warner Bros. and Team Downey are moving forward with their live-action take on Pinocchio and have enlisted Paul Thomas Anderson to write a draft with an eye toward directing. 
Though the film would seem far outside of Anderson's wheelhouse, the move shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. ... Downey and Anderson are good friends and have been looking to work together for some time. 
The Giver writer Michael Mitnick penned the latest draft of Pinocchio, and Downey has been quietly tweaking the script for the past six months. Downey has been developing Pinocchio for years, but the project has found new urgency in the wake of a string of live-action hits based on kids' classics, most recently Disney'sCinderella. 
Downey is onboard to play Geppetto in the tale about a wooden puppet who wants to become a human boy.Bryan Fuller and Jane Goldman wrote previous drafts of the story that is based on a novel by Carlo Collodi. Downey... will produce Pinocchio alongside Team Downey partner Susan Downey as well as Dan Jinks (Milk).

A few more details from Christian Post:
Downey is also cast to play Geppetto in the remake. According to the report, it will be a "traditional adaptation of the story" which is based on the 1883 novel by Carlo Collodi titled "The Adventures of Pinocchio." Disney's version of the tale was an animated movie that came out in 1940. 
Disney, on the other hand, is developing its own live-action version of the movie, with Peter Hedges writing the script. The Disney version is said to be based on the 1940 animated movie, according to a report in Variety

Some additional notes on how Anderson may influence the movie, via The Verge:
Anderson's script won't be entirely original. Several other writers, including Bryan Fuller and Jane Goldman, have made earlier drafts, and even Downey is said to have put some work into it. Now production on the film is apparently kicking into high gear over at Warner Bros. after seeing how successful live action films based classic kids' stories can be.  
Anderson still seems like an odd choice for Pinocchio, although he's very much not set as its director yet. As a writer, Anderson's help is hard to argue with. His scripts are consistently smart and compelling, and he does love to work with father–son relationships. It's not stated when Warner Bros. would like to have this film out in theaters, but it seems like the project now has the momentum to get there.

This is the edition my Dad gave me
from one of his trips when I was a child.
It's one of only a couple of items
he ever personally bought for me
and I greatly treasure it.
So, what are your thoughts? Do you think Pinocchio as a tale beloved by folk well beyond Italy and fairy tale realms will benefit from this take?

Pinocchio is a very dark serial story, though not without much humor of course, but I always worry when I hear about a live version of the traditional tale.

It's one thing to stylize a production so it doesn't come off as creepy (usually it becomes quite magical instead) but there are heavy issues and themes that a director/writer like Anderson could have a lot of fun with - and end up freaking out an entire generation with!

It's always hard to predict.

Artist and writers who have traditionally sunk their teeth into the darker side of things, not shying away from socially perturbing aspects in their work, tend to behave unexpectedly when it comes to properties that are considered family-fare, especially if they have kids of their own. While their take still tends to be 'fresh' (compared to traditional kid-friendly offerings), usually they want their own kids to see and enjoy the movie too which tends to bring out a conservative and protective vibe from otherwise in-your-face artists. This isn't necessarily a bad thing either - both for the film and for the artist.

"Traditional adaptation" tends to mean "once upon a time" or, at least, "a long, long time ago", complete with romanticized notions and representations of the past, especially for family films, but that doesn't mean we can't be surprised by an interpretation. If the film remains G or PG rated, for example, though we probably won't be seeing Pinocchio as an at-risk street kid, we may still see a street urchin vibe - think MGM golden age, just hopefully with a (needed) difference.

One challenge I see is that if Gepetto is the focus of the story, that's going to be a difficult thing to endear the retelling to a whole new generation of children. Adults, sure, but kids are harder. One of Inside Out's big criticisms (along with it leaving you feeling down and hopeless rather than 'up' and inspired) is that, despite being told well and looking amazing, it's a story that's really for adults reflecting on their own childhood, rather than for kids, so kids just aren't taking to it as expected. Not that kids don't understand it or the themes, they do, but just that kids don't relate in the same way that adults looking back do. Telling a deep - and classic/resonating story that children will relate to - right now - as well as adults, is no small task. (Which is why writing for children is much harder than it looks.) While Collodi did that, albeit in a culture-specific, and old-fashioned fashioned way that some people have trouble with, it's all there in the stories but it's easy to lose that balance.

If nothing else, this news certainly is interesting and brings a lot of potential to the story-retelling plate.

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